Luke Fox lounged across his work station with his hand supporting his head while he re-read over all the evidence from his three active murder cases. He desperately hoped something would jump out at him from the pages, but there was nothing. He continually kept coming up empty.
Normally he would have already established firm leads on a suspect, or better still, wrapped up these cases by now. But all three remained unsolved with no suspects, or any likelihood of arrests in the near future.
That was a fact not lost on his Lieutenant.
‘Fox…’ Lieutenant Husken bellowed across the bull pen.
Luke’s head snapped up from his reading. Husken’s head poked out from his office door. He beckoned towards Luke. ‘My office,’ Husken said, then retreated back into his office.
The stern-faced Lieutenant stood at his side of the desk when Luke entered. He gestured to the visitor’s chair. ‘Sit,’ he directed.
Luke slid into the chair and watched Husken take his seat.
Three files sat neatly at the side of Husken’s desk. He slid them closer and opened the top file. After a short read his eyes lifted to Luke. ‘Claire O’ Connor…’ Husken said.
Luke nodded. He knew where this was heading.
‘The journalist found murdered in her Brooklyn hotel room…’ Husken continued. ‘Where are we at with that…? It’s been over ten weeks…’
Luke edged himself to the front of his chair and rested his elbows on the desk. He slowly shook his head. ‘Still the same, Boss. I keep coming up empty on that one,’ Luke said. ‘No witnesses. No trace evidence. There is nothing because it all took place in the confines of a hotel room.’
Husken held an unconvinced glare on Luke. ‘There has to be something…There has to be some evidence that will identify a killer. She didn’t strangle herself,’ Husken said.
‘The room had been wiped down afterwards. Evidence had been removed from the room. I checked the hotel security footage and—’
Husked held up a hand at Luke. ‘I’m aware of all that…’ Husken gestured to the file. 'I’m asking if you have anything new…any new leads to identify the killer.’
Luke shrugged. His head bowed. He rubbed a hand across his mouth. ‘I got nothing…’ was all he offered.
Husken glared at Luke, clearly dissatisfied with the response. He closed the folder, then opened the second folder and read from it.
‘John Bishop…found shot and killed in his car in Dumbo six weeks ago…’ Husken’s eyes lifted to Luke. His glare was as clear as any spoken word.
Luke couldn’t hold the Lieutenant’s glare. His eyes dropped. It pained him to report that he also had nothing. ‘I suspect the killer was from the Projects, but no-one is talking down there,’ Luke said.
’Got a weapon…? Got a witness…? Got a suspect…? Got anything…?’
Luke shook his head. ‘Nothing…’
Husken sighed. He closed the folder and opened the third folder. ‘Linda Fulton…This is now over three weeks old…’ Husken said.
Luke fell back in his chair. ‘I liked the husband for that one…but he has since been cleared. The husband claimed to have disturbed the offender who fled and we’ve got nuthin’, not even a workable description,’ Luke said.
Husken closed the file and clasped his hands together on the desk. He stared across at Luke, allowing a moment of silence to pass by. 'These are three cases that I expected you would have had something for me by now…The Luke Fox I know would’ve had something by now...’ Husken said. ‘What happened to that go-getter that came here six years ago…? What happened to that fighter…the guy who never gives up... no matter what…?’ Luke’s head lowered. 'I want that guy back…’ Husken said. ’You need that guy back…’
‘I’m just in a bit of a slump at the moment, Boss…’
‘Bullshit…’ Husken snapped. ‘You’re not in a slump. You’re a shadow of your former self.’ Husken flicked the back of his hand at Luke. ‘You’re letting this broad effect your life.’ Husken glared at Luke. ‘So she walked out on you…get over it. Mix some cement in your morning coffee or something and harden up.’
‘It’s not that easy, Boss. Eight years we were together…Eight years,’ Luke said. 'We were planning to get married and everything…Then out of the blue…she dumps me…She gives me the old, It’s not you its me speech…’ Luke shook his head.
‘Frankly, Fox, I don’t give a shit…’ Husken said. ‘All I care about is the clearance rate of your cases. You have gone from one of my best Detectives to… I don’t know what you are now…’ Husken said shaking his head. He glared at Luke’s bowed head. ‘If you’re not up to it, let me know now. If you don’t think you’ve got what it takes any more to be a Detective, just say the word and I’ll re-assign the cases. I need results and I can’t wait until you get your shit together.’
‘I’ve got this Boss…’
‘Do you…? Do you really? Coz I’m not seeing any evidence of that. All I’m seeing is someone who was once an A-Grade investigator, to this…’ he flicked his hand at Luke. ‘I remember we talked a while back after you solved that North Brooklyn murder about how you were chasing promotion to Detective Second Grade…Back then I’d have said you were a shoe in…but now…I’m not even sure you are worthy of carrying a gold shield.’
Luke didn’t respond. His head dropped and his shoulders slumped. He had nothing to offer in his own defense. He navel gazed while Husken continued.
'You need to show me that you are able to put all that personal stuff behind you and focus on your work . You need to move on. You need to get me results, otherwise your position as a Detective will come under further scrutiny and review, and based on what you’ve shown me so far, it could very well be considered untenable. You won’t have to worry about getting that promotion…you’ll no longer be a Detective. Can I make myself any clearer…?’
Luke shook his lowered head. This was all new to him. He had never been on the receiving end of such a stern dressing down that challenged his work ethic.
Since becoming a Detective and joining the 84th Precinct six years ago Luke had one goal; to be promoted to Detective Second Grade, which was a merit based promotion. And he worked hard to achieve the necessary results required to be considered for such a promotion.
But not only did his promotion look lost, he learned that he could be busted back to uniform unless he could turn things around and get some results. To a competitive high achiever like Luke, that was devastating.
A knock on the Lieutenant’s office door broke the extended silence and Luke’s self-pity wallowing. One of Luke’s Detective colleagues entered the office.
'We’ve just had a report of a young girl that’s gone missing in Boerum Hill, Boss. Mother found the front door ajar when she woke this morning. When she checked her daughter, she wasn’t in her bed…’
‘How old…?’ Husken asked.
‘Ah, eight. Suspected abduction. The first responders are calling for a Detective to attend. Who do you want to send?’
Husken rubbed a thoughtful hand across his chin. His eyes flicked to Luke. Several seconds of silence passed by while he regarded Luke. His eyes narrowed.
‘I'm gonna give this to you, Fox…’
Luke’s eyebrows arched. His mouth fell open. ‘But…I’ve already got three on my plate, Boss…We’ve just talked about the difficulties I am having with them.’
‘I am aware of that…’ Husken said. ‘This is a fresh case… a fresh start, and quite frankly, it will be your last chance to show me you still have what it takes.’ Husken held Luke’s gaze. 'Solve this one, and do it quickly. Prove me wrong…The ball’s in your court, son…don’t let me down…but more importantly…don’t let yourself down.’ Husken flicked his hand towards the door. ‘That’ll be all.’
Luke pushed himself from his seat and stood. He eyed the Lieutenant unfavorably before turning and exiting the office.
How the hell am I going to fit this one into my workload, he wondered as he ambled back to his desk.
Luke sat at his desk reviewing his case files. It had been ten days since Husken gave him his last chance ultimatum and, while that was not a lengthy time frame as far as criminal investigations go, he should've had something to work on by now, but he had nothing. He was no closer to solving this latest case, let alone the other three he already had on his books.
The stress and pressures of the day’s work combined with the lack of physical activity from having sat at his desk most of the day finally started to take its toll. He struggled to remain focused. He fought to keep his eyes open.
Luke checked the time. It was 9.45pm. His helpless gaze dropped back to the reams of records and statements stacked and spread across his desk. He exhaled as he shook a frustrated head at what he saw.
Luke sat back in his chair and locked his fingers behind his head. He lifted his weary eyes and stared blankly at the ceiling.
After fourteen hours straight Luke decided he'd had enough for the day and quickly cleared his desk of all the records and documents in preparation to head home.
Luke secured his case files away and made his way out of the building, leaving only the cleaning staff behind. With hands buried deep into his pockets he stood momentarily on the street before he opted to head to nearby Barnaby’s Bar for a well-earned night cap or three.
The fresh air from the short stroll failed to distract Luke from his troubled thoughts and worries, but he arrived at Barnaby’s with a hard earned thirst.
The affable barman, Benny stood at the door end of the bar polishing glasses when Luke arrived. He greeted Luke when he entered.
‘Hey…Here he is…’ Benny said shifting his focus towards Luke entering from the street. ‘How are you this evening Detective?’ Benny asked in a manner that sounded genuinely interested, rather than offering a standard banal greeting.
Typical of a cop, Luke scanned the bar patronage as he entered, assessing the clientele in attendance. The bar was unusually quiet, although it was getting late.
‘I’m hanging in there Benny…’ Luke said. ‘A little thirsty…but I’m still hanging in there.’
’Now thirsty I can help you with Detective,’ Benny said, punctuating his comment with a finger point. He smiled his trademark grin that illuminated his entire face. ‘Hey you missed everyone earlier tonight…’ Benny said as set up a glass and collected a bottle from the back of the bar. ‘I think they’ve all gone by now,’ he said with a quick check towards the rear of the room. 'There were quite a few of ’em in earlier,’ he said as he poured Luke a shot of his preferred poison – Jack Daniels straight up.
On most nights after 5pm the Detectives from the 84th could be found occupying the booths located towards the darker, more private rear corner of the room, sharing a post-shift drink. The booths they regularly occupy are affectionately referred to by the regular patrons as the “Cop’s Cave”.
As soon as Benny finished pouring, Luke picked up his first drink and with a flick of his head, emptied the contents before replacing the glass back on the bar. 'Keep ‘em coming Benny.’ he slapped his open hand on the bar.
‘Tough day eh...?’ Benny said.
‘More like a tough month I’d say...’ Luke said as he watched his next round being poured. ‘Set me up with another six of these,’ Luke said. ‘That’ll do for a start.' He jabbed his thumb towards the rear of the room. 'I’ll take them down the back. ‘Just bring them on down to me when you’re ready Benny…thanks.’
Luke scooped up his freshly poured drink and made his way to his usual spot in the rear corner – down in ‘The Cave’.